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Gavin's Underground

July Gallery Stroll: Paul Vincent Bernard

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2008-07-21 -

Back to Gallery Stroll we go, as this past Friday we took a trip to Artspace's City Center location for this month's display.

Near the back of the old plaza we find
Tanner Frames, home for this month's print showcase from Paul Vincent Bernard, displaying various prints from the past few years up until some of his most recent work.  I got a chance to take some pictures and chat with Paul about his work, the display, a recent trip to California for a press, and a number of other topics.  All while having some bites of the tasty sushi made by his wife.

Paul Vincent Bernard


Gavin: Hey Paul, first off, tell us a little about yourself.

Paul: I was born in 1953. I grew up in Bountiful, Utah. My parents saw that I was visually oriented and signed me up for all types of summer art courses. I have always had a deep interest in being an artist, but life gets in the way and I chose to work in the family typesetting and rubber stamp business. In a family business this choice is often handed to you. As a teenager, I worked with handset type, hot lead and countless hours as a graphic darkroom technician shooting line negatives, halftone negatives, making offset printing plates and much more. I came back to fine art in my late 30’s and returned to the University of Utah to get a degree in art. My grandfather, Rocco Bernard, was a commercial printer and my father was a linotype typesetter, so printing and printing preparation for commercial purposes has been in the family for 3 generations. I have ink in my blood.

Gavin: How did you get into printmaking?

Paul: When I began working towards my BFA, in the early 1990’s, a few basic printmaking classes were required. I began with a summer Lithography class taught by Bob Kleinschmidt. I knew after the first week that I was a printmaker, so I declared it as my area of emphasis and never looked back; however, after graduation I no longer had access to a press, so I worked in oils. In 2003, I bought my first press, a tabletop etching and lithography press. I have focused mostly on making prints since that time.

Gavin: Was it difficult being able to do it for a living, or did it come about easy for you?

Paul: I don’t make a living as a printmaker or even as an artist; I work at a computer everyday, making office signage and rubber stamps, but I treat being an artist seriously. By that I mean that I am regular about showing up at my studio and putting in the time. The difficult thing about being an artist is requiring of yourself that you show up for work. I found that I was unable to do my art at home. I got into my first studio space in 2000 and I have been pursuing it seriously since.

Gavin: I recently read on
15 Bytes you bought a new lithography press off of eBay and traveled to California just to get it?

Paul: My recent print work sent me online looking for a used press. I have never bought anything through eBay. It was a large purchase and I was afraid at every turn that I was being conned and that my money had disappeared down a rat hole. The woman I purchased the press from is in her mid 60’s and she needed to find a good home for her press. I was very fortunate that few saw the item on eBay. My son and I flew to Fresno and she picked us up at the airport and drove us to her cabin in the mountains 50 miles out of Fresno. We rented a U-haul and drove the press home. We paid as much as $4.75 a gallon for gas. Just getting the press to Utah ran over $1800.00, but even so, it was a great deal with lots of nice extras, including 5 small lithography stones, 3 hand rollers and more. It has been nice to work with the new press.

Gavin: Considering the circumstances for the new press, is it expensive to do print as an art form?

Paul: Paper is expensive. The inks are getting very expensive. The equipment is a large expense and framing print work is costly. Paintings need only a frame but prints usually require a frame and glass. My work, because it is so black, requires that I buy special glass to eliminate the reflections. I will forgo divulging how much money I have dropped setting up my print shop, but it has been a lot.

Gavin: For those unfamiliar with your work, what are you most know for in the local art community?

Paul: I have become known for dark minimalist landscapes with nuanced edge marks that float away from and fall from the form. My work crowds the picture plane leaving almost no room for the viewer. I work primarily with black ink. I try to make the black as dense as possible. Because the forms are minimal, I have a desire to complicate the surface of the black as well as the edges of the forms. For me, the land is huge. Bigger than our capacity to understand, so I try to concentrate on less of it.

Gavin: A couple years ago you put on a show called Making Our Mark with a number of other print makers.  How did that come about and what was that like when it debuted?

Paul: That was a great show. The question that we asked was what draws us to printmaking? The answer to that question is that printmaking allows the largest variety of means to make incredible, interesting and beautiful marks of all the mediums of art. We had a nice sampling of artists working in various types of printmaking represented. There were others who could have been included. I think that we drew the line at 13 artists. Anyone who saw that show may remember that Chris Creyts had his huge intaglio press on the floor of the show. Chris always claimed that the press had been owned by the person that printed Picasso’s etchings. Chris was the real deal and I never knew him to not be able to back his stories.

Gavin: You're currently housed at Poor Yorick.  What brought about the decision to take studio space there, and what's that experience been like for you?

Paul: I was in the Guthrie building from 2000 until the end of 2006. When the Guthrie was put up for sale, I was worried about the future housing of my smaller press. I had a fully operating print shop in three rooms on the second floor. It was a very tight squeeze. Poor Yorick’s had just opened in its current location, so I called Brad Slaugh about space availability. He had some nice larger spaces still available and I took the largest one. I miss being downtown and I miss my downtown artist friends. I do not miss the crowded conditions of that studio, nor the unbearable summer heat, nor the cold of winter in that old building. Poor Yorick’s has been a great place for me to work. I have much more room, which allowed me to add another press. My work has become more focused and I have noticed that I am creating more work. Another good thing about Poor Yorick is that we have a big opening in March and September and since there are 40 or so artists, a lot more people see the art and many of the people that come have the means to buy art. I really enjoy showing my art, even to those who love art but can’t afford it, but it has been good to be able to send more folks home with some of my art. I try to do some smaller work so that even a person who hasn’t bought art in the past can have a chance to start a collection.

Gavin: Tell us about what you're displaying at Tanner and why you chose to display here.

Paul: Travis Tanner asked me if I wanted a show. He has been framing my better pieces for some time now. He has such sensitivity for the work that he frames. We have established a good working relationship. This is a show about the landscape. Some of this work has been seen in bits and pieces over the past few years, but not as a whole body of work. The show includes two new large diptych lithographs. "Double freefall" is two prints shown vertically and "Strike/slip" is two prints shown horizontally. There is a third new print, "Kayenta formation." Much of the show considers geologic forms and terminology. I like the time element that geology represents. It is yet another take on how large the landscape really is. I took three courses in geology during my college career and there will be test at the end of the opening evening.

Gavin: What's your opinion of the local art scene, both good and bad?

Paul: I have visited many major cities that house active artists’ communities. In my view, many Salt Lake artists can hold their own critically and also in level of skill and creativity. We really have reasons to feel good about our art scene. Perhaps we could use our confidence to better promote ourselves.

Gavin: Is there anything you think could be done to make it bigger or better?

Paul: As a community, we could do more networking among with the art community. It is quite easy to become isolated in our studios. At least, isolation comes easy for me.

Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll and its current state?

Paul: I really enjoy Gallery Stroll. I like it best when I am showing, but I think that the art viewing public likes it a lot and wants to see more and more art. It is good for me to get out of my studio and to consider the work of other artists and to understand why they work the way that they do, so it is very educational. It is a great social event as well.

Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of the year?

Paul: I am getting used to the idea of this big new press. I plan to do an inaugural print edition using the small litho stones I acquired with the press. That will be ready for the Poor Yorick opening. I will be showing some monotype work at Rose Wagner during the Fall. This is a group show of work produced during a workshop at
Saltgrass Printmakers and next summer I am slated to show at the Wine Store downtown. I am interested in some stele forms. I have explored this somewhat but want to take it further. Richard Serra, one of my obvious influences, says that "work leads to work." So each project points the way to the next. I have a lot of unresolved images in my sketchbook and in my notes, but I am going to work small for a bit of a break for the next short while.

Gavin: Anything you'd like to plug?

Paul: Yes. Let’s plug the Poor Yorick’s opening, Friday, September 26 and Saturday, September 27th. I also express appreciation to Sandy Brunvand and Stefanie Dykes of Saltgrass Printmakers. I have been loosely associated with them over the past few years and my hat goes off to them for doing so much to make print more visible in Salt Lake City. Even those of us not directly involved have benefited from the energy and enthusiasm they have created along with opportunities to show, to work as a group and to grow professionally.

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